Published 4 years ago
Two weeks ago we drove to Idaho for our grandma’s funeral. We had a special weekend there celebrating her life with the rest of our family. Cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandchildren gathered the day before the funeral service to share and record some of our favorite memories of our sweet grandmother. We shared all sorts of anecdotes, from the humorous, silly moments we remembered–like the way grandma jumped back and forth while she played Super Mario Brothers on the old Nintendo with us–to the tender moments we cherish sitting on her lap while she sang a sweet lullaby.
Grandma taught us so much, and since Bookroo is a family business, I figured I’d share some our favorite lessons from Grandma with the rest of you.
Grandma and Grandpa kept a clean house, a tidy pantry, and a busy garden. Grandma believed in living a self-sustaining life. Many of my cousins shared memories of pulling weeds and bottling fruit. A summer week at Grandma’s was fun, but it wasn’t always a vacation. She expected her grandchildren to pitch in and work with her on different projects. Even when Grandma was visiting us at our own homes, she was always on her feet. Sometimes it seemed like she was perpetually cleaning our kitchen–she and Grandpa made quite the the dish washing team. When she finally sat down to rest, it was usually with a baby on her lap. (Which can be nice, but not always much of a rest!)
I always loved playing games with Grandma. Some of her favorites were bingo and dominoes. One of the latest nights I remember at their home was playing “Mexican Train,” a dominoes game, at the dining room table until well past midnight. Grandma often forgot to tap her dominoes together when she was down to the last two pieces. Undoubtedly, one of us grandchildren would call her out for it, and she had to draw another domino. She threatened, “Oh you little! . . .” and shook her fist in the air before laughing and reaching out for another piece. I’ve already mentioned it, but I don’t know of another grandma her age who was savvy enough to play video games with her grandsons. As for the littlest kids, she was perfectly happy to play with them in her basement toy room rolling marbles down a track, never tired of being with her youngest grandbabies.
Whether she was working or playing, grandma was quick to smile. Some nights after playing games, all the aunts, uncles, and older cousins gathered in the family room to chat. Grandma loved to smile and laugh with the rest of us as we shared memories and cracked jokes.
Her quick smile was never more obvious than in the later years of her life when she struggled with memory loss. Increasingly, she felt uncomfortable or frustrated about something she wasn’t understanding, but she couldn’t find the words to explain. In these moments, she occasionally became frustrated with Grandpa, even as he was trying to help her. At those times, I liked to step in and see if I could help her move past the frustration. For several years, all it took was an excited, “Hi Grandma!” and the face of one of her grandchildren. The frustration in her eyes would immediately dissolve, and she would smile warmly at me as I told her about something going on in my life or re-introduced her to my beautiful wife.
Grandma attended nursing school after finishing high school. She worked for most of her life as a nurse at a nearby hospital. She used the nursing skills she learned to serve tirelessly at work and in her own home. For many years, grandma wanted to learn to play the piano. When we were at her home, she always asked us to perform our latest recital pieces for her. After she retired, she used some of the extra time to teach herself to play the piano. Even after beginning relatively late in life, she learned to play many of her favorite church hymns over the next years.
Several of my oldest cousins shared memories of grandma reading to them when they were little. They had favorite books and loved the one-on-one time with her. When we stayed at their home I remember walking downstairs to the kitchen in the mornings and seeing her enjoying the quiet morning by reading in the family room. Similarly, when she visited our home she often brought books because she loved to spend time reading before the bustle and activities began.
Grandpa and Grandma always had lots of books in their home. They kept a beautiful library of leather-bound classics, and almost every time I visited I wandered in to admire the collection and take satisfaction in having read an ever-growing selection of the titles. Grandma understood how important it was to have books ready and waiting to be read.
We will miss you Grandma! But we love you, and we are thankful for the important things you taught us.
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